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Human Trafficking Through the Ages

Human trafficking is the act of trapping people through violent, coercive, or deceptive means. It is a major, global issue that has been present for ages. However, it is not simply an issue! It is a huge violation of freedom within a growing industry. Regardless of its immense physical and emotional impacts, traffickers continue to breach this freedom every year.

Patterns Among Trafficking

Although human trafficking affects all genders, it disproportionately affects women and girls. In fact, the UNODC finds that 70% of victims are female. Moreover, there are various common patterns of trafficking.

For instance, the most typical scenarios are sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and a combination of the former two. Sex trafficking risk factors include substance use concerns, homelessness, migration/relocation, unstable housing, and mental health concerns. Labor trafficking risk factors include migration/relocation, unstable housing, criminal records, physical health concerns, and substance use concerns.

The Origins of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking was initially introduced in the context of white slavery. In the 20th century, the prototype trafficking victim was a white woman. In 1910, congress passed the White Slave Traffic Act, otherwise known as the Mann Act. This prohibited women from crossing the border for “immoral purposes” and also criminalized interracial couples. In 1921, the term “white slave trade” was omitted, and the definition was expanded to include all races. However, in 1933, the International Convention modified this definition again, placing the focus on the trafficking of women. Then, in the 1949, the International Convention decided to use neutral language once again. In 1979, the association between women and forced prostitution was reaffirmed. Furthermore, the convention prohibited “traffic” in addition to prohibiting legalizations of prostitution.

From Then to Now

From the 1960s to the 1980s, feminist movements fought against human trafficking. While this occurred, the group referred to as “sex workers” arose; they desired the freedom to redefine prostitution as “sex work”. In 1997, the severity of labor trafficking was revealed when deaf individuals were recruited in Mexico and transported to New York, where they were forced into labor in the streets. This changed the public’s perception of “trafficking,” which was no longer restricted to sex trafficking of women/girls.

Human Trafficking Today

It is estimated that 1,000,000 individuals are trafficked each year; between 20,000 and 50,000 of these people are within the U.S., one of the most popular countries for sex-trafficking. The 2017 report from the International Labor Organization found that 24.9 million victims are forced into trafficking. Moreover, 16 million of them are exploited for labor, 4.8 million are sexually exploited, and 4.1 million are exploited in state-imposed forced labor. The human trafficking business is bigger than we realize, gaining an estimated $150 billion annually. Furthermore, the number of prosecutions is frighteningly low, demonstrating the major necessity for more awareness.

Today there are various campaigns and increased awareness about human trafficking; the anti-sex trafficking movement is very much active. In fact, since last year, there has been a 20% increase in victims and survivors who contacted the human trafficking hotline. Thus, it is evident that work towards connecting with victims have spurred change.

How can we be more active in fighting human trafficking?

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